Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The intensifying storms of winter

Climate change, they say, is making weather events more intense. Winters are now colder, summers warmer, snowfalls bigger, rainstorms more violent. More tornados, more hurricanes--although last fall the US saw very few hurricanes. One of the dramatic winter events going on at the moment is snowfall in the southern US, which is unprepared for it: no equipment to get the snow and ice off the highways. It came on suddenly, and many were trapped at work, at school, wherever they were; and if they tried to drive home, they became trapped on the highways in a gridlocked traffic jam. Here on the island snow is a regular occurrence, although ice is not so common. When we get an ice storm, the risk of a power outage is greater. In January of 1998 we experienced a severe ice storm; electricity was out here for three days, elsewhere anytime from one day to two weeks. Late in December of 2013 we had two ice storms only a few days apart, and once again the electric power failed, this time twice, for a total of three days. Temperatures fell to near zero fahrenheit (minus 16 celsius). It was bearable, as long as the woodstove could be kept burning--and it could. (The newer pellet stoves, which we don't have here, require electricity to operate, so they'd not be any help.) A week without electricity and the more remote sections of the house would risk frozen water pipes, which would then burst when thawing. But the outages didn't continue that long. Water usage was the main problem; with an electric pump, the only fresh water available is what you've stored when preparing for the storm. I've written here before about the irony that 50 and 100 years ago people were less dependent on electric power and therefore they could handle these extremes better than most today. With my snowshoes, the ones with the metal grippers on the bottom, I could walk around with my camera outside in the cold and wind. In the right frame of mind, it was very beautiful. Enjoy the pic and don't think about the power outages!

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